by Margaret SuttonThis summer I have the privilege of serving as a NODA Intern for the University of Alabama in Huntsville. As their intern, I will be working with New Student Orientation, providing support for the Assistant Director and helping in any way that I can.
My first week at UAH has already been a whirlwind of fun. We jumped in right into the university’s first orientation session immediately after I arrived on campus. I watched as the first year students filed in with their families, huddled together, smiling nervously as they approached the check in table. It’s an exciting time - the brand new Charger Union buzzing with energy.
I notice that some of the first year students I interact with are ready to go.
“I would move in tomorrow if I could,” one young woman tells me, sporting a brand new Charger blue t-shirt, “I’m SO excited!”
Other students are more reserved. They ask more questions and seem more uneasy in their new environment. A hundred and one questions flash through their minds - Will I be successful in classes? Will I get a job on campus? Will I get the residence hall I want? Will I like the food? Will I like my roommate? Will I make friends? Will I make it at all?
As an intern, I’m learning how orientation and transition programs can cater to these students and help them feel safe and welcomed in the college environment. But all of this talk about transitions got me thinking about my own transition.
Right now, I’m on the cusp of transitioning into my second and final year of graduate school. If all goes as planned, I will soon begin job searching, and graduate with my Masters degree. Then, I will embark into another transition as a new professional. What will that look like?
I’m not the only one who wants to know the answer to that question. Before the semester could even end, I was already being hit with the questions. “So where will you be job searching?” “In what area will you be focusing your search?” “Are you only going to apply for higher ed jobs, or will you apply for other jobs?” “Are you going to pursue your PhD?” “Where will you live?” “Do you think you’ll get married soon?”
It all makes me want to run away screaming. Because the truth is, I have no concrete answers to any of these questions - not for myself, and especially not for anyone else.
So I find myself in the same spot as these uneasy first year students, feeling more overwhelmed by the upcoming transition than excited like I should be.
As I reflect on my own new student orientation as a first year at Florida Southern College, I remember feeling a lot like I feel now. My time at FSC was the best four years of my 23, and that experience serves a reminder that the anxiety and unsureness of my present situation will pass. Instead of letting the probing questions, and the uneasiness at the lack of answers, get me down, I can change my attitude to excitement for the promise of a new adventure on the horizon. Transitions can be scary, but in the end they bring positive change to life. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me.